Friday, 30 March 2012

Ali Shaw on writing groups and fairy tales

So, last night was the Abingdon Writers' event with the very lovely Ali Shaw (and his even lovelier wife, Iona). 

I must admit, I was a little worried it would be a bit of a flop, mostly because I've never organised an author event before and, as well as not having one friggin' clue what I was supposed to be doing, I've had rather a lot going on recently. In the end though, we had a pretty good turn out (thanks mostly to Mostly Books and their publicity drive) and I think it went pretty well. 

Ali was a very laid back, interesting speaker and we were treated to an impromptu mini-lecture on fairy tales and folklore which, with the recent Hollywood trend for fairy tales, felt very current and en vogue. In fact, Ali said he drew inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen for 'The Girl With Glass Feet' and traditional, mostly long-forgotten folklore for 'The Man Who Rained'.  Which, I must say, does show in his writing which is full of lyrical prose, beautifully imagined description and melancholy, damaged characters with more than a little fairy tale magic sprinkled throughout. 

Ali read some of his latest book - a segment which I think showcases his style and imagination perfectly. As I said on my guest blog over at Mostly Books, if you smile at the thought of sunbeams turning into canaries (and, really, you'd have to have a black heart not to), then Ali's books are for you!


We also managed to lure some audience members into hopefully signing up to join Abingdon Writers helped greatly by Ali extolling the virtues of belonging to a writing group. For me, it's the support and encouragement (and once arm twisting but I deserved that...) that is so incredibly helpful. Writing is, as everyone knows, a very solitary thing to do, so being able to talk to fellow writers going  through the same angst about a plot line or a character who just won't behave is really important for your sanity.  Plus, as Sally Poyton (an Abingdon Writer) pointed out - being part of a writers group isn't just for you, it's for your family and friends too. 

No longer will they have to fight the urge to tell you that they just can't care any more about whether your MC is being too whingey here or too bossy there. They won't have to smother the desire to tell you that they definitely do not want to hear the 88th re-write of your first chapter. And they won't have to pretend they've just gone through a tunnel on the motorway when you call them to harass them about finishing your 115,000 word manuscript and giving you some feedback (honest but only about the good bits please). No, you can delight your new writing buddies with all that stuff now. Hurrah for writing groups! 


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Guest blogger - get me!

So, I have a guest blog over at Mostly Books where I talk about forming a writing group and the event that said writing group, Abingdon Writers are holding this week as part of Abingdon Arts Festival 2012. An event with award winning author Ali Shaw,  no less! 

You may know him as the author of 'The Girl With Glass Feet' and the recently published 'The Man Who Rained'. He's a wonderfully imaginative author who writes modern day fairy tales in lyrical prose. His characters are always intriguing and a little bit damaged, the imagery he uses is sublime and the ideas (sunbeams that turn into canaries, people that are literally made of weather and girls that slowly turn to glass) are original and envy-evoking (for a writer). 

If you're around and about the South Oxfordshire area this Thursday night, come and hear Ali talking about his road to publication whilst having a glass of wine (you and him!) and then chat to Ali and the Abingdon Writers afterwards. We'll be at the Abingdon Library at 7.30pm and tickets are £4 (with £3 redeemable against a purchase on the night!) available from Mostly Books or on the door on the night.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

I've only gone and done it

So, last week I finally submitted to two agents! Hurrah for me. Boo that I haven't heard a whisper back. Still. I have dipped my toe in the water, which is the hardest part. And it has only been ten days. Patience is one of the many things I don't have (it's up there with will power and being able to resist using sarcasm). 

And, you know what? All that angst about how I would have sleepless nights, smartphone clutched in my hand, checking for an email - rejection or otherwise - every five minutes, so that I could just go to friggin' sleep once I knew, for sure, that I had been rejected? Wasted. I kind of forgot about it. Weird.

I feel like sending it off has actually given me some kind of release - I've stopped stressing over it. Now I can enjoy re-jigging my synopsis and cover letter. I can wallow in those first three chapters and make them better, better, better! A goal post has been reached - there's no pressure any more and it feels really good. Like floating...


So, to celebrate I made myself one of those modern day type coffees (read: latte) in my china take out cup and baked some of those miso cookies I was talking about last time. I admit, I was a little sceptical but I have a tub of white miso to use up so I thought, what the heck and went for it.


I changed a couple of things - I substituted a third of the sugar for light muscovado and, true to form, added in some chocolate chunks (but only to a third of the mixture as I wasn't sure if it would work. It does). They are yum. And, crucially, not belt busting because they are so rich and dense with flavour that you couldn't eat more than two of them in a row. Well, I couldn't and I have a humongous capacity for sweet things. Next up are compost cookies - see here (and note the date of this blog - always late to the party, that's me!) - check out the masses of reviews and recipes sprawled all over the internet before you turn your nose up! I gotta say, after miso cookies, this seems like a logical progression to me. I will report back when they have been made and sampled.

We're also in the midst of potty training Lady M and bought her some pants. I'm not sure she's really got the right idea:
Just one pair of pants on my head, Mummy? Not enough! I need at least three...
Oh and by the way, the lovely Novelicious ladies are running a 'What an Agent Wants' series on their website - take a peek! They also have a rather wonderful competition for unpublished and 'un-agented' chick lit writers - deadline is pretty soon though, so you'll need to get your skates on if you want to enter! 


Saturday, 10 March 2012

New blogs to adore!!

So, whilst I was listening to a teething Lady M decidedly NOT having her afternoon nap today (this despite administering baby paracetamol which, definitely does not make babies sleepy - not Lady M anyway), I decided that I would trawl the Internet for some new blogs to lurk about in. There was no point in attempting any writing with the 'oohs' and 'woof woofs' floating down the stairs to distract, so I made some green tea and settled down to some blog browsing.

And what a lovely bunch of blogs I found! Mostly foodie type affairs, they are going to make me much fatter but also, crucially, some of them promise to make me much more time rich! Hurrah - I CAN be a proper mother and wife (of the 50s variety - although, I have been led to believe that they were all vallied up to their eyeballs. Hmmm, there's something in that, no?)


 Behold, at the side of all my (distinctly lacklustre - check out the marvellous photographs on said sites) posts are now some fantastic, droolicious, time saving but not inch losing food blogs. Visit them at your waistbands peril. (But, seriously now, visit them. Waistband be screwed).

Already I have marked up cottage pancakes from 101 Cookbooks , green smoothies from The Stone Soup , these Miso cookies and also these amazing beauties which I think even my doughnut hating (wtf is that about? Even Krispie Kremes, people!) friend, Marina, will like. Those last two sumptuous blogs come by way of the beautifully presented The Kitchen Maid.

I am not jealous of these sites at all. No, not me. Green-eyed monster - never! However, these may very well take over from my extensive Nigella library as my go-to for food porn. I will be bookmarking furiously, sat up in bed, with my net book, pretending to be editing or researching or whatever when, really, what I will be doing is salivating over glorious photos of all sorts of food. Remember when I said I wanted to lose some weight this year - thank God I just purchased Dance Central and Your Fitness on X-Box Kinect...

Friday, 9 March 2012

I'm an Auntie!!!

My perfect, tiny, beautiful niece was born this week! A few days early, she put my sister through a rather long labour but both are doing really well and Lady M and I rushed down to see her almost as soon as we heard the news. I have to admit that Lady M wasn't particularly interested in her teeny bundle of new cousin but that's probably a good thing as she isn't the most gentle of toddlers.

I had a cuddle at the hospital but the new parents were so inundated with visitors when they got home, I thought it best to stick to getting tea and tidying up so my sister could relax a little. I remember how as a new mum, even though you're absolutely exhausted, you want to show off your new baby and unfortunately that does involve being a hostess. Everyone is so entranced with this unbelievably gorgeous new person, that they forget that the mother is completely shattered, probably really sore and in dire need of some looking after.


When my cousin came over to meet Lady M for the first time, I remember being so incredibly grateful that she insisted on getting her own cup of tea. She even did the washing up for me - what a star! It's all too easy to concentrate all your attention on the baby when, truly, the mother needs a bit of attention and pampering too (if you can call letting the new mummy relax whilst you get yourself and her a drink being pampered!). Still, I had my cousin for that and my sister had me, so I'm glad I had had the experience of being looked after by a guest so that I could pay it forward.

OOPS! I must have saved this post instead of publishing it... so this is last weeks post!